§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. David Gammans)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I suggest that there could hardly be a shorter or more simple Bill to lay before this House. As I shall explain in a minute, it is due to a rather interesting sequence of historical events that a Bill dealing with so simple a matter should have to be laid before the House at all. All that the Bill seeks to do is to empower the Postmaster-General to increase the poundage on certain postal orders from 2d. to 3d. This is one of the postal tariff changes which were announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech, and it has to be legalised in this way.
I do not imagine that I need tell the House why this increase is required. It is to meet the startling increase in costs which the Post Office has had to meet during the past two years. The total additional expenditure is approximately £50 million, or an increase of 25 per cent. in the short space of two years. Of this £50 million, about £33 million is due to higher charges for salaries, wages and pension liabilities. If there had been no increase in tariff charges generally, of which this particular charge is one, there would have been during the current year an estimated deficit on the Post Office account of approximately £2 million.
As it is, even with these increased charges the estimated surplus is only £8 million, which is the lowest surplus for 25 years, except for 1951–52 and for the first year of the war. In point of fact, we are not by any manner of means certain that we can reach this surplus of £8 million, because since the Estimates were prepared increased charges have meant that we shall be very lucky indeed if this figure is obtained. I want to stress this point because I think that there is a good deal of misunderstanding today about Post Office finance. I noticed that in the "Evening Standard" last Thursday, when they were commenting on the increased charges which the Post Office 1844 have been compelled to make, there appeared these words:These increases are made at a time when the Post Office is returning an average profit of £16 million a year.I have not the faintest idea where the "Evening Standard" got those figures, but I only wish they were even approximately true.
The estimated surplus for the year ending 31st March of this year is likely to be of the order of £4 million and, as I have already said, there has been such a startling increase in costs, largely through higher wages, that, far from there being a surplus of £16 million, as the newspaper suggests, there would have been an actual deficit of £2 million. I should perhaps add that these figures take into account the fact that the Post Office has received a credit in its commercial accounts for all the services—telephone, telegraph and postal—which the Post Office provides for Government Departments. As I think my predecessor will appreciate, this question of the commercial accounts is one of the most difficult things to put across to the public and the Press.
Not only are these increased poundage charges necessary to play a part in Post Office revenue generally; they are necessary to meet a deficit on the postal order service itself and also on the other branch of the remittance service, that of money orders. It is estimated that during 1952–53 the postal order service would, at current rates, show a deficit of approximately £130,000, as compared with a surplus of £100,000 for last year, nearly £500,000 for the previous year and about £500,000 for 1935–36. The increased poundage which I am proposing to the House today is estimated to produce, over a full year, additional revenue of £1,350,000. If it had been possible to introduce it in time for it to have come into effect on 1st July of this year, we reckon that it would have produced another £1 million for the current year.
The other branch of the remittance service—money orders—is now running at an estimated loss of £500,000 a year, and the inland rates for the money order poundage were increased, as the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) knows—because he did it—as recently as 1st July, 1951. It was then estimated that the increases would provide an additional £200,000, but subsequent 1845 wage awards have largely cancelled that out.
If, therefore, we take the two remittance services together, the increased poundage on the postal orders should produce a net profit of £700,000 in a full year, but only if costs do not rise again. Needless to say, I very much regret that this increased poundage is necessary, and I hope the House will agree with me that it is inevitable, not only because of the financial position of the Post Office generally but also because of the deficit on the remittance services in particular.
As I said just now, there is an interesting historical reason why a separate Bill is required to authorise the increase by 1d. in the poundage on certain postal orders. It takes us back over a century and a half in Post Office history and the House may perhaps like to hear it.
The earliest money remittance service was provided by money orders in 1792 because of the frequent losses in sending money by post. Apparently, at that time, the legal advisers to the Post Office decided that it was ultra vires for the Post Office to start its own money order service, so the then Postmaster-General allowed six Post Office officials to do the job in their personal capacities. They were known as "clerks of the road." These clerks of the road do not appear to have been very successful in their venture, and another private partnership took over; but in 1838, as a result of an official inquiry, the Government of the day decided to nationalise it—and it was in that way the money order service was taken over by the Post Office.
In 1856 this service was extended to overseas remittances inwards, for the rather interesting reason that it enabled the men who were fighting in the Crimean War to send money home to their wives. Things went on like that until about 1871, when it was discovered that this service was becoming more and more unprofitable, very largely because of the cost of sending money orders of low value. It was from this fact that the postal order service, as we know it today, grew up.
The other interesting thing about the small Bill that was then introduced which has a distinct relevance to what we are doing today, is that when it was introduced it met with a good deal of hostility both in the House and in financial circles. The banks did not like it 1846 because they thought the Government intended to use it as a preliminary to bringing in paper currency, and the House did not like it for a reason for which sometimes we do not like bills today—that is was so badly drafted that no one could understand it. Eventually, in 1880, the Bill was passed.
It was in 1883 that the maximum value of postal orders was fixed, and the maximum poundage was also fixed at 2d. Perhaps nothing shows better than this Bill the way in which legislation of recent years has become complicated. Nothing shows it better than the fact that in 1880, when that Bill was passed, the House insisted on having direct and detailed control over so small a thing as raising the poundage on postal orders. Today it is one of those matters which we should leave to delegated legislation, and the increase would probably go through almost unchallenged. The reason I have to introduce this Bill today is because of this historical background.
Before I sit down, there is one other matter dealing with postal orders which I think is relevant to the future administration of postal orders and which may be of some interest to the House. I have to tell the House of a new machine which was invented some time ago and which I believe is the first of its kind in the world. It is a machine for printing for each customer the amount of the postal order which he wants and all the other details which go with it, like the date, the poundage and so on.
A Post Office clerk takes a blank postal order and, when the customer asks for a certain value to be put on it, he puts it through the machine and out comes the postal order without the customer having to put on it stamps to make up an odd amount. It is saving quite a bit of time and I think it will be a great advantage. We hope it will lead to greater efficiency. In other words, if someone comes to a Post Office counter and asks for a postal order for 19s. 3d., he can have it straight away.
The first of these machines—and the Post Office has six—was installed at Romford Head Post Office in October of last year. It has gone through a few teething troubles, but I am now satisfied that it will be quite satisfactory. Four other machines are being installed—one in London, one in Birmingham, the third 1847 in the Frederick Street Branch Office of Edinburgh, and the last in Newport, Mon.
§ Mr. Gammans
Not all of the people who put money on football pools come from Liverpool. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen who represent those constituencies might like to see these machines at work, and if so, I shall be delighted to make all the necessary arrangements.
§ Mr. Gammans
Yes. I must apologise to the House for digressing in this way, but I thought it might be of interest to them not only to know the historical background of the Bill, but also to learn of the development of the postal order service generally.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House considers it undesirable to proceed with any Measure for increasing Post Office charges until Parliament has had an opportunity of examining the organisation of the Post Office financial system with a view to providing for accounting on a commercial basis; and, in particular, declines to proceed with a Bill which imposes a charge which cannot be justified on commercial grounds and which places an unfair burden on the poorer sections of the community.The Assistant Postmaster-General spent quite a deal of time in disgression but not quite enough time upon his Bill. What he has sought to do is to hide the fact that on commercial grounds he has no justification at all for these proposals. He referred to all sorts of accounts and to the commercial accounts generally, but he slipped over very quietly the exact calculations which are related to the proposals in the Bill.
Before coming to the Amendment, I should like to say a few words, too. First, of all, it is against a very sombre background that we have to discuss this Bill. The Post Office is declining in popularity and is becoming far more expensive than ever it has been; and, in the words of the leading article of the "Evening 1848 Standard" to which the hon. Gentleman referred:It will take more than pretty pictures to reconcile the public to the beating which they are receiving at the hands of the Post Office. As from July 1, the rental of a business telephone in London goes up from £8 3s. 4d. to £11 a year, and of a private telephone from £5 19s. 7d. to £8. At the same time, the free call allowance for residential subscribers"——
§ Sir H. Williams
On a point of order. Are we entitled to discuss telephone charges on this Bill, or are we to discuss poundage on postal orders? I should like to discuss both.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Further to the point of order. The Assistant Postmaster-General, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, referred to the commercial surplus, and he sought to justify what he was doing in the Bill in relation to the overall accounts of the Post Office. All I am doing is to refer to some of the ingredients of the overall accounts.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Further to the point of order. It appears to me that the matter that was being raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) is particularly relevant to this issue. Obviously, if there is to be an increase in the charge for postal orders, the whole set-up of the postal services is affected from the financial aspect.
§ Mr. Speaker
In answer to the point of order, a certain amount of analysis is in order, I think, because no doubt one of the reasons for this increase in poundage is either to make up a deficit or to get a larger surplus. The House will realise, however, that the main purpose of the Bill is to deal with postal orders and, while the other matters may be referred to by way of general argument, they should not be gone into too deeply.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I am bound to do. I was only making passing reference to some of the points, in exactly the same way as did the Assistant Postmaster-General. Perhaps I may continue the quotation:At the same time, the free call allowance for residential subscribers will be reduced from 200 to 100 a year. The cost of registered letters and air-mail rose last month. Increases in postal order poundage are still to come.They come today.
1849 That is the background, and it is indeed a very sombre background, especially when one remembers what the Assistant Postmaster-General said in a previous debate when he spoke of the devastating effect upon the Post Office of the amount of capital expenditure which is now being allowed.
This bill is put forward in the names of the Assistant Postmaster-General and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. They were both great warriors when they were in opposition, but now, apparently, they are allowing the Post Office to be used in a way which they would have been the first to condemn had they been on this side of the House. The Financial Secretary sought to do the Post Office great harm when he was in opposition. I must say that he is giving it some mortal blows now that he is in the Government.
This action, I am afraid, compares with the old Biblical story of classic deceit, which is to be found in the Old Testament. One can adapt the words a little. "The voice is the voice of the Post Office, but the hand is the hand of the Treasury." In this matter the Assistant Postmaster-General is doing something which he knows in his own mind cannot be justified on the basis of Post Office considerations. What he is doing is to carry out the dictates of the Treasury.
He has not told us—and this, I think, is ominous—what are his proposals; he has merely told us about the permissive powers in this Bill. Why did not he tell us what he was going to do with those powers? This is most amazing. The present poundage rates are as follows: up to 1s., 1d.; from 1s. 6d. to 5s., 1½d.; from 5s. to 21s., 2d. What are they to be under this Bill?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am coming to that. What are they going to be under this Bill? There is a £2 postal order. What is the authority for charging 4d. for a £2 postal order? These are the things that we ought to know from the Assistant Postmaster-General when he is bringing forward a Bill of this kind. He is selling us a pig in a poke. What is to be the future poundage? It is rather alarming that the Bill is put forward asking for permissive powers to raise the maximum 1850 charge to 3d., when already 4d. is being charged for a £2 postal order—I do not know under what authority—and on other postal orders below that the poundage is to be raised to 3d. Do I understand that up to 1s. the poundage of 1d. is to go to 1½d.? Is that right?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
We ought to know. Why do the Government want this Bill? What is to be the exact effect upon the individual postal orders? Is it right that the 4d. poundage on a £2 postal order—for which I can find no stautory authority—is to go up to 6d.? I have put these pointed questions to the hon. Gentleman. I think we cannot carry on this debate unless we have the answers to them. I invite him to tell us now.
§ Mr. Gammans
It is all set out and available, and the poundage is as follows: on postal orders from 6d. to 1s., it goes from 1d. to 1½d.; from 1½d. to 2d. on 1s. 6d. up to 5s.; to 3d. from 6s. up to 21s.; from 40s. it goes up from 4d. to 6d.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think he might have told us before. It was an oversight, no doubt, but I think he might have told us when moving the Second Reading. I hope that, when making his final reply to the debate, he will tell us what is the statutory authority in the case of the £2 postal order, and also give us some indication whether or not this Bill will interfere with his intention to raise the poundage to 6d. on an order over £2.
Now I come to the reasons for doing it. The hon. Gentleman was asked on 19th March by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. L1. Williams) what was the financial outcome of the postal order service for the year 1951 to 1952 and the additional income to be expected from the proposed increases. The hon. Gentleman answered then as 1851 he answered in moving the Second Reading:The estimated surplus on the postal order service for 1951–52 is £100,000, but for 1952–53 there would have been an estimated deficit of £130,000. The estimated additional revenue for 1952–53 from the proposed increases in charges from 1st July is £1,050,000."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 208.]In a full year, as the hon. Gentleman has said, he will get, to meet this comparatively small deficit, not the amount of the deficit, but £1,350,000; and this is to meet an estimated loss of £130,000. This really can hardly be justified on Post Office grounds.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentleman made no reference to the fact that what he was really doing was helping the Chancellor. It was left to the Chancellor to tell us in his Budget statement that the additional revenue for the Post Office was to assist him. This will provide 10 times the normal profit. It will provide a 1,000 per cent. increase in the rate of profit. Surely there can be no justification at all for the increases proposed in this case.
Can it be doubted that this is not done for the purpose of the commercial accounts of the Post Office? If one were concerned with the commercial accounts of the Post Office, one would raise the charge to the cost of the particular services and try to apply an equitable charge that would meet the cost of a particular service, and not try to milk one service at the expense of another. I agree that there are different reasons for the special case of telegraphs, but, apart from that, each one of these services ought, by and large, to meet the cost of running it. In this case, however, it is proposed to increase the rate of normal profit by 1,000 per cent., at a time when the country is told to do all it can to freeze wages and have restraint on profits.
I have tried to find out from the hon. Gentleman what is the element of taxation in this proposal—because there is an element of taxation, I am sure he will agree. In case he has forgotten, I will remined him of the Chancellor's Budget speech, when the right hon. Gentleman said: 1852I now turn to certain minor sources of revenue for this year.Minor sources.My noble Friend the Postmaster-General, in order to balance his accounts and"—here is the significant thing—also to assist me, has found it necessary to increase certain Post Office charges."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1296.]It is assistance to the Treasury that is reflected in this Bill. Apparently the Chancellor is regarding the Post Office as a minor source of revenue. As I say, I have tried to find out what is the amount of taxation contained in this proposal. I put a Question to the hon. Gentleman on 19th March. I asked:How much of the additional revenue from the proposed increased charges is required for purely Post Office purposes; and how much for the needs of the Exchequer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 206.]I had a reply that completely evaded the point of the Question. There can be no doubt that the element of taxation in this proposal is at the rate of £1 million in a full year, and I say it is to be condemned on that basis.
Upon what sections of the community is this additional taxation to be imposed? I defy the hon. Gentleman to deny that this increase in charges was dictated, not by the Post Office, but by the Treasury. That is why the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has his name on the back of the Bill. Who will bear this taxation? The old-age pensioners, the unfortunately growing army of unemployed, the widows and the people who put a shilling or two on the pools. If there is to be taxation on the pools, let it be direct taxation.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Could the right hon. Gentleman give the House the benefit of his experience and tell us what percentage of postal orders of less than 5s. value are devoted to football pools; and to what extent, therefore, the taxation to which he is referring will be a direct tax on football pools?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not think that has any connection with the argument I am putting forward. If there is to be taxation on football pools, let us do it as taxation on football pools. Do not tax the poor people by this special levy through the poundage on postal orders. The son and daughter who want to send a few shillings home to their father or 1853 mother, or the mother or father who wants to send a few shillings to the girl or boy away in the training college, are the people who will have to bear this additional taxation. Those who can afford to run banking accounts will still pay only 2d. They can transfer hundreds of thousands of pounds for 2d.— the same amount as a poor person will have to pay to transfer 1s. 6d. I say that this is class taxation with a vengeance. This is legislation against the poor, getting £1 million out of poor people under the very thin excuse of its being required for Post Office costs.
That is our case against the merits of this proposal. Now let me turn to the Amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friends and myself. In the Amendment we set out two reasons: first, legislation against a section of the community, and secondly, that we want Post Office charges and the financial running of the Post Office to be subject to an impartial inquiry like the Bridgeman inquiry. I have on a number of occasions sought to press the hon. Gentleman about this, and after his term at the Post Office I was not surprised to find that he rather agreed with the view that I took.
It is extremely difficult to explain to the public, and even to this House, the financial structure of the Post Office, where there can be a commercial surplus and a cash loss, and £24 million worth of services in the commercial accounts for which there is no cash, which is not carried on the books of the Departments who get those services. That was the point the "Evening Standard" was making, and whilst their figures were wrong—and one can understand them being wrong—the argument they were putting forward was right, and was used on more than one occasion by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in opposition. Anyone who has had anything to do with the Post Office has come to the conclusion that it ought to be run on the basis of charging for the services it renders, and on no other basis.
I put these things to the hon. Gentleman, and in the debate on 31st March he went out of his way to explain them, saying:The House ought to know what all that adds up to. In 1950–51 the Post Office took a credit from other Government Departments 1854 for no fewer than £24 million, of which £13 million was for telephone services. Up to 1943, the telephone and telegraph service was settled by inter-Departmental payments, but the amounts had to appear in the Estimates of the Department concerned. From the Post Office point of view"—this is the Assistant Postmaster-General speaking—we would like to revert to that system. In my opinion, if the head of each Government Department had to account in his Estimates for the amount that was spent on telephones I am not sure whether the bill would come to £13 million a year, as it does now.That was the general point of view of the Assistant Postmaster-General. Later in the debate, referring to what I had said, he said:He considers that we might have another Bridgeman Committee. I think there is something in that. I do not want to go any further and suggest that this is going to happen, but I agree that a great organisation such as the Post Office should, from time to time, have the sort of close and expert examination that it had before.He went on to say finally:It would be a good thing from the point of view of the Post Office accounts, and might not be a bad thing from the point of view of the Departments concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1952; Vol. 498, c. 1191, 1258.]That is the attitude of the Assistant Postmaster-General. Had he been on this side of the House, he would have been roaring at us with great exuberance and chivying us at every turn and corner. Now that he is the meek messenger of the Treasury he will do anything to the Post Office that the Treasury request him to do. What a change of roles. I was going to say "What a fall was there," but perhaps I had better not rub it in, because he is merely taking it for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. That is what it comes to. He has got to take the bumping while someone else has been responsible for the deed. We can only bump by bumping him, as I am sure he appreciates that.
It is our view that the time has come when, before we grant any more increases, especially like this inequitable and unjust increase, we should get a complete examination of the system of Post Office accounting and the relationship of the Post Office to the Treasury. There is no more reason to get £1 million in tax on postal orders than there is to get £1 million in tax on coal, railways or civil aviation, and I am sure that in his heart 1855 of hearts the hon. Gentleman agrees with us.
That is doing infinite harm to the Post Office. What is the use of Post Office officials straining every nerve to increase the revenue of the Post Office when they find every year at Budget time that the Treasury play havoc with their accounts? The business element has been taken completely out of the Post Office, and I am sure there can be no more frustrated bunch of officials today than the officials in charge of the Post Office.
I say to the hon. Gentleman, with very great respect, that if he allows this to go on harm will be done to the Post Office which it will take generations to overcome. In all the time I have been in the House I have never known the Post Office to have so weak a political defence. I suppose it is easy to sacrifice the Post Office whilst the Postmaster-General is in another place. That is our trouble. The Postmaster-General is in another place and we cannot attack him. He can smilingly look upon his Assistant Postmaster-General having a beating which the Postmaster-General ought to get for betraying him.
That is our case, and it is in those circumstances that I have moved the Amendment. At the end of the debate we propose to divide the House, for two reasons: first, because the Post Office is not getting that degree of independence which would be good for it to make a really businesslike and efficient undertaking; and secondly, because this Bill imposes taxation upon the poorest section of the community while at the same time retaining the 2d. poundage for those who can run banking accounts.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), who was the former Postmaster-General, has, I think, shown considerable ingenuity in using this what I might call little Bill as a basis for a good, tub-thumping political speech. I think that I heard hon. Members opposite say that it was a good speech of its type; I think it was. I rather wish to treat the matter somewhat differently.
Before I do so, I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that, when all is said and done, the sombre background 1856 to which he referred and taking the words of the amendment, the "burden on the poorest sections of the community" go back some considerable time, because it was when he was Postmaster-General that the public telephone call was raised from 2d. to 3d. and various other increases were made, all of which, I suggest, are a sombre background and certainly affect the poorest sections of the community more than those people who can afford to have their own telephones.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentleman should remember that my predecessor had already raised the rate for private telephones.
§ Sir R. Grimston
That does not alter the fact that the right hon. Gentleman raised the rate for public telephones, which certainly falls very hard on the poorest sections of the community who may have to use them in an emergency. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to make a political thing out of this, he is just as vulnerable as my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General.
I noticed the other day—I was not able to be present at the debate myself—that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson), who was formerly Assistant Postmaster-General, expressed the view, if I may quote in parenthesis, that the Post Office was not a sort of political battledore and shuttlecock, and that, in the past, we had treated the Post Office more or less as a non-political Department. I agree with him in that, and that it is an institution of which we can all be proud. I want, in the remarks I make, to treat it on that basis.
First of all, I think we all regret these increased charges. When one looks at the increased charges and the reasons for them, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is extremely difficult for an ordinary member of the general public to find out what the Post Office accounts mean. In fact, I must confess that I myself, when I look at the financial statement and then look at the commercial accounts, find it extremely difficult to sort the matter out.
On this point of the Post Office being used or not being used as a vehicle of taxation, I again agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the prime object of the Post Office is to render a commercial service to the public, and I think that its charges, by and large, should be 1857 framed with that end in view; but at the same time—and if I am wrong, my hon. Friend will no doubt correct me—I think that the view has been taken in the past that, being a commercial institution, the Post Office should, as other commercial institutions do, make some contribution to the Revenue. It does not pay Income Tax or Profits Tax, but, being a commercial institution, it should make some contribution, and, if my recollection serves me aright, in the days before the war and after the Bridgeman Committee, that was fixed at £10 million a year. Then came the war, and all these things were upset.
This brings me to a particular point which I want to impress on my hon. Friend, and that is the accounting to other Government Departments. There is something of a Gilbertian situation here because, during the time the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in office, we who are now on this side of the House were often pressing him to reintroduce the method, which was abandoned during the war, whereby every Government Department was charged for the services which it rendered to the Post Office and had to show them in its estimates. For many reasons it is agreed that all other Government Departments should do so in their use of the postal service, and it is a step, I think, in clarifying the Post Office accounts. We did almost get the right hon. Gentleman to the stage of introducing this.
I want to ask my hon. Friend what is the present position. When we were in opposition, we pressed this point of view very strongly on the then Government, and I hoped that when we came into office it would not be long before the system was reintroduced, both from the point of view of the benefit which it would have upon the extravagant use by other Government Departments—if it is extravagant—of the Post Office services, and secondly, to simplify the accounts. I think this has a bearing on these charges, because the more we can get back to a proper commercial basis the more likely we are to get efficient working, and I hope that, if my hon. Friend may speak again by leave of the House, he will have something to say on that matter.
§ Mr. Gammans
My hon. Friend will realise, of course, that it would not affect the revenue of the Post Office. It would 1858 affect, I think, the extent to which the Government Departments used the telephone. On the revenue side it would make no difference.
§ Sir R. Grimston
To a large extent I think, the figure is notional, and it is possible it might affect the revenue. I should, however, like to assure him that I am under no illusion as to the exact position, but it is quite obvious that the public and the "Evening Standard", to which he referred, are under a complete illusion on the subject which I think would be dispelled if we went back to the proper system and every Government Department paid for its services.
I go so far as to say that I believe that if, through this method, in one way or another the calls of Government Departments on the Post Office were reduced, it might well be there would be a supply of equipment and apparatus which the Post Office might be able to use in giving private commercial service which might bring it in a better revenue than it is getting notionally at present from Government Departments, and in that way it is possible that the position might be improved. In any case, I am certain that this is a step which could be taken in the interest of Government economy and probably in the interest of the working of the Post Office itself.
I now turn to the matter of the new machine for printing postal orders. I can well understand that it is being tested and that teething troubles have to be overcome, but, if it is a success, its use should mean a considerable saving in the issuing of postal orders and eventually a reduction in costs. Having one form of postal order on which different denominations can be printed must lead to some reduction in cost. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say something further about the use of the machine and whether a reduction in costs is likely when it is used on a large scale.
This is a very limited Bill, and if I talked about some of the things which I should like to mention I should very soon be ruled out of order. I would merely say that the increased charges are regrettable. However, they are part of a movement which has been going on for some time. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell us quite definitely that steps are being taken to go back to the pre-war method of accounting for 1859 Government Departments. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman opposite proposes to have a Division on his Amendment, because he is just as vulnerable as my hon. Friend, if not more so, but if he does so I assure him that the result will not be what he wishes.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
My hon. Friends and I thank the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) for the very fair, honest and objective statement he has made from his knowledge of the Post Office. We ought not to be loath to pass such a comment when we know that the remarks made on the Government side of the House are uttered in all sincerity. I propose to comment on certain matters which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, and I hope to reply to his charge about the vulnerability of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).
The Assistant Postmaster-General mentioned that it was originally intended that the increase in the poundage on postal orders should take place on 1st July. Were the Post Office prepared for that? Was all the printing done? Was the organisation for the distribution of the new postal orders prepared? Had it also been arranged that the millions of old postal orders in the country were to be recalled? Who fixed the original date of 1st July? Was it the Post Office or was it the Treasury? Like Brutus of old, I pause for a reply, but the Assistant Postmaster-General appears not to rise to the bait.
There seems to be an almost indecent haste about marrying this Bill to the Statute Book. A week last Friday we considered a Bill dealing with £75 million of capital expenditure on Post Office equipment. That seems to be the more important of the two Post Office Bills before the House. But there has been a dramatic change. The Bill dealing with the poundage on postal orders now seems to be the more important one. Why has there been this dramatic change in the Post Office order of priority? I suspect—I am now talking politically, and I make no bones about it—that, with their imperfections and inefficiencies, the Government have slipped up over the time factor and now find themselves in great difficulty.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
The order has been changed, and it has been done quickly. It will be recalled that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) likened the Assistant Postmaster-General to Mr. Pecksniff and to Uriah Heep. I do not subscribe to that view; my hon. Friend has the wrong fictional characters. In view of the circumstances in which the Assistant Postmaster-General finds himself in speaking, as the Assistant Postmaster-General, for the Treasury he is more in the position of the Artful Dodger.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
It is not possible even for the Assistant Postmaster-General to be likened to both Uriah Heep and Mr. Pecksniff. Uriah Heep was humility itself and Mr. Pecksniff had the superiority complex beyond description.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
The hon. Gentleman is not correcting me. He is correcting a statement by one of my hon. Friends, with which I disagree.
The hon. Member for Westbury spoke about a Gilbertian situation. What would Gilbert have said had he been describing the relationship between the Post Office and the Treasury? I think he would have said, on the lines of "The Charge of the Light Brigade," something like this:Their's not to make reply,Their's not to reason why,That's for the Treasury, noble Post Office.The crux of the problem is in the facetiousness of the doggerel.
The Assistant Postmaster-General finds great difficulty in replying to most Post Office debates because the Post Office organisation is severely restricted by the over-all financial control vested in the Treasury. I do not think the Assistant Postmaster-General will deny that if the finances of this great public service were wholly in the hands of the Postmaster-General and his staff there would be no need for this miserable Bill. The increase in the poundage on postal orders and the increase in telephone charges would have been unnecessary.
I do not think it is the slightest use the Assistant Postmaster-General stating, as 1861 he did during the Committee stage of the Bill—which authorises £75 million capital expenditure—that the services given by the Post Office to other State Departments are adequately credited in the commercial accounts of the Post Office. He is really defending the Treasury. Indeed, last Wednesday, in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), who asked what annual revenue the Minister expected to obtain from renting to the Service Departments £25 million worth of equipment provided for in the Post Office and Telegraph Money Bill, 1952, the Assistant Postmaster-General said:Facilities provided for Service Departments regardless of whether they involve the use of new equipment or existing equipment, are credited in the commercial accounts of the Post Office at normal commercial rentals."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 95.]It is about the normal commercial rentals that I want to join issue with the Assistant Postmaster-General.
He is not claiming that the £23 million last year is an exact sum, but I think he will agree that it is a computed sum which goes through the commercial accounts of the Post Office, and that the inference that the full services given to State Departments by the Post Office are adequately repaid in the commercial accounts is therefore wrong. Last year the figure was £23 million. I ask the hon. Gentleman a straight question: Is he satisfied that the sum credited in the commercial accounts is adequate to pay for all the services given by the Post Office to the State Departments? If he is satisfied about that, well and good.
I hope he will give us some indication or some formula on which those credits are based. I believe the House has a right to know how those credits are computed and how they are taken through the commercial accounts. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that they are vital matters to this House and should be looked at before he starts fiddling away with coppers on the poor man's cheque, the postal order.
We have always contended that the Post Office is vital to almost every section of complicated British life, and especially to industry, commerce and the social forces of the country. We agree that the Post Office should make some contribution to the finances of the State, much 1862 along the lines of the statement made by the hon. Member for Westbury. It should pay its way in the totality of its operations. Having said that, we strongly oppose the idea that the Post Office should be a revenue-producing department for the Treasury. Is it so?
I am claiming that almost every State Department waxes fat on its relationship with the Post Office. They do not pay directly, and I do not believe that they pay adequately, for the services given to them by the Post Office. I am speaking with reference to the commercial accounts. I do not believe that they pay adequately even in credit, for the services given to them.
The Minister has quoted the leading article in a newspaper last week. I am not going to challenge him about the £16 million profit, but other figures were given in that article which ought to be accepted or denied. The article stated that the State Departments have 20 million trunk calls per year, that more than a million telegrams are sent by the State Departments with Post Office machinery, and that Departments make more than 100 million local calls.
I suggest that the whole of the services given by the Post Office to the State Departments have not been enumerated in that article. There are the private exchanges in the big State Departments and State Offices and the communication services in the Army, Navy and Air Force, all with Post Office equipment.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The Bill deals with the increase of poundage on postal orders. The debate is going far beyond that.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I am trying to deal with credits made through the commercial accounts. If you look at the text of the Amendment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will see that it asks for an opportunityof examining the organisation of the Post Office financial system,and for a correction of that system before the Bill is accepted by the House.
All these things are offset by the hon. Gentleman in accepting £23 million, as he did last year, for all these services. If there were an examination for membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and we said, "Here are the cash accounts and the commercial 1863 accounts of the Post Office, and here are the services that were given. Make a computation of the value of those services, "and if the student returned the reply,"£23 million," we would mark that answer with a great big black cross. The cheapest form of expense in all State Departments is that which they give in terms of credit to the Post Office commercial accounts.
That brings me to the point of the Amendment. Why should the general public, industry, commerce and social relations have to pay an excess figure when the State Departments are being undercharged considerably at the present time? That is the gravamen of the charge contained in the Amendment. I believe it is sufficiently important for the Minister to have the indulgence of the House to make another speech in reply to those questions.
I come to the speech made by the hon. Member for Westbury. He said, in effect, "The former Postmaster-General was as vulnerable on this question of the relationship between the Post Office and the Treasury as is the Minister in the present Government."
§ Mr. Nabarro
I heard the speech. Surely my hon. Friend said that the former Postmaster-General was equally vulnerable in the matter of costs.
§ Sir R. Grimston
As I made the speech perhaps I might say something. My intention was to convey that the former Postmaster-General was equally vulnerable as regards costs, but I did say something also about Government Department accountability. We pressed the right hon. Gentleman on that. At first he was very slow, and we nearly got him to the stage of accepting.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I am coming to the defence of that point. I think it is true that when the last Labour Government went to the country, my right hon. Friend was considering that problem, because of the pressure that had been put on him by the House and because he thought that the relationship between the Post Office and the Treasury was wrong. I will not go further than say that consideration was being given to the problem. 1864 I do not know what the result would have been, but an examination was taking place on this matter. Can the Assistant Postmaster-General say that such consideration is being given by the present Government now or can he give some indication to us that it will be given within the near future?
If consideration is not being given to this important matter now, why not? Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, were very critical when they were on this side of the House and they pressed such an examination upon my right hon. Friend. If they are giving consideration to it, why proceed with a Bill which, even if it were withdrawn, would not break the Post Office Savings Bank or lower the prestige of the Assistant Postmaster-General? He could follow the precedent of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last week on the problem of the B.B.C. Governors. If that did not affect the prestige of the right hon. Gentleman—or did it?—this probably would not affect the prestige of the Assistant Postmaster-General.
I suggest that it would be a good thing if the Government withdrew this petty-fogging, narrow Bill which attacks the poorest in our community. On the 5s. postal order, 3d. will have to be paid by the man who is having his little flutter on the pools with Littlewoods.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Then he will have to pay 3d. on a 5s. 1d. postal order, whereas the man who settles his gambling debts with his bookie only has to pay 2d. on a £1,000 cheque. That comparison is obvious and the Government should think about it. After all, this Government has prated more about economy, especially economy in State Departments, than any Government within memory.
§ Mr. Baxter
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that a bank which charges 2d. on a cheque gives a service in addition?
§ Mr. Winterbottom
The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that, because it will cost a man 3d. to send a 5s. 1d. postal order and only 2d. for a £1,000 cheque or even a £10,000 cheque. That argument makes it much worse.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
It means that every time the poor man is having to pay more than the rich man, and this from a Government which has prated about economy.
The Assistant Postmaster - General quoted an article today. Does he not think that State Departments, and especially the Services, if they knew they had to pay for every telephone call and every telegram they sent, would have a very different attitude towards telephone calls and telegrams, with possibly a great saving in consequence? I do not know whether it is true, but the article said that in 1922 the Post Office began to charge the other Departments and that, in consequence, there was a reduction of about 50 per cent. in the number of telegrams sent. The keynote of Government policy has been economy and I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he might look elsewhere for the exercise of that economy.
I started by talking about people in literature and I shall finish on the same note. I want to remind the hon. Gentleman of a story by John Bunyan. If the Assistant Postmaster-General will recall the story, he will know that Mr. Little Faith, who was robbed in Dead Man's Lane, lost his coppers out of his pocket. He was robbed of his spending money but the thieves left the jewels. The Government are doing precisely that in this Bill. They are taking the poor man's copper and leaving untouched the possibility of much greater economies by neglecting the long-overdue financial re-organisation of the Post Office.
That is the gravamen of our charge against this Bill. I ask the hon. Gentleman to face all the implications of the Bill in a different way from that in which he moved it, as if it were something to be slipped through the House. It is a vital matter because it reflects the attitude of the Government to the haves and have-nots in our land and again it is penalising the have-nots.
1866 I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Bill in order to give satisfaction to the loyal band of people in this magnificent service who are doing a first-class job of work. They do not like to think that their efforts are frittered away because of this wrong relationship between the Treasury and the Post Office. I also ask the hon. Gentleman to give satisfaction to the long-suffering public who know that they are being fleeced by the present charges because of the impositions of the Treasury on the Post Office; and I want him to give satisfaction to this House because it is time the relationship between the Post Office and the Treasury was corrected. This Bill is not worthy of any British Government, even of this Government, and I put that low enough by saying that it is the worst Government within living memory.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bright-side (Mr. R. E. Winterbottom) is tempting providence by making literary allusions, and perhaps he should be reminded of one which is more appropriate to himself and to the party which he so ably represents, the Rake's Progress: because on this side of this House we recollect how, when his party were in power for six years, they caused the situation which makes this Bill necessary.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom
May I refer the hon. Gentleman to the speech made by one of his hon. Friends who pointed out that the difficulty of this situation was tackled by my right hon. Friend at the first possible opportunity?
§ Mr. Renton
If the remarks of the hon. Gentleman had been confined to that situation I might have been inclined to agree with his speech, but he went far beyond that situation and tried to make out that this was an attempt on the part of the present Government to get something out of the poor. The synthetic indignation and spurious pity of the hon. Gentleman were inappropriate to this occasion.
The truth is that we have here a serious Bill which affects Post Office administration. The need for it arises from the immensely increased costs which the Post Office has had to face, costs amounting to 25 per cent. in two years—and the present Government were not in power 1867 during those two years; it was the hon. Member's hon. Friends who were in office. Therefore, I ask the hon. Member to address his mind to the matter in that light, and perhaps when he comes to read his speech, he will do so with the due measure of shame that he should have.
I should like to deal first with the Bill and then with the Amendment. I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), and I marvelled at the way in which he managed to make and to repeat so many fallacies so frequently in such a short space of time. There was, however, one matter in which I strongly agree with him, and which, I think, my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General should explain to the House quite fully.
We find on page 23 of the Financial Statement accompanying this year's Budget that there are to be altogether four increases in this particular character of charge, whereas the Bill deals with only one of them. My hon. Friend gave a very interesting historical survey to the background of the Bill, but he did not explain the reason why, when four increased charges are to be made, only one of them comes into the amending Bill. It would be most valuable if we could have an explanation of that important point.
In passing, and on the question of explanation, I wonder whether my hon. Friend could explain how it is that the ancient word "poundage" is used in connection with the Bill. The amounts with which the Bill deals are not pounds but guineas. It may well be that there is some interesting explanation, and it might just as well be put on record on this occasion.
I regret that while we have an amending Bill before the House, it does not deal with various other matters also. The service which the Post Office provides is a valuable service, one which, I should have thought, might be increasingly encouraged and used and which might bring in, perhaps, still further revenue to the Post Office. I should like to ask my hon. Friend whether it would not be possible to allow the maximum rate of postal order, which at present stands at only 40s., to be raised. Of course, money orders can be for larger amounts, but they arise in a different way. I should have 1868 thought that here was an opportunity for the Post Office to earn increased revenue.
Another question is of the international use of postal orders. I remember well before the war once being stranded on holiday abroad. I had run out of money and I sent a telegram home. I forget whether the money was telegraphed back to me by means of a system which then was available, or whether, I being on the move, the money was sent to me in the form of a postal order or money order. Presumably, it was not a postal order, because I do not think that 40s. would have gone quite far enough.
At any rate, as one who has Liberal instincts, I look forward to the day when we have complete freedom in the transfer of money from country to country. I know that in our present difficult circumstances it is not an easy matter to arrange, but at the same time it is a matter to which the Post Office should be constantly applying its mind so that when it becomes a facility which can be more easily arranged, the machinery is there for putting it into operation.
My hon. Friend in opening the debate referred to the various figures in relation to the operation of the postal order service. It is a well known fact, however, at any rate among lawyers, that a great deal of money is lost to the Post Office every year by the fact that a number of postal orders are stolen and then cashed, sometimes, I am sorry to say, by postal employees, and sometimes by people who have broken into post offices.
In view of the recent bank-notes robbery case, it would be interesting to know whether the loss to the Post Office through the stealing or embezzlement of postal orders in a year is a serious one or whether it is a negligible matter, and to what extent it is reflected in the figures which my hon. Friend has given in order to justify the increased charge.
As I understood it, my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) was saying that when the Post Office came to consider the colour of the new stamps which had to be brought out, it might be a useful economy to have one standard colour for the different values of stamps. If that was what he meant——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
This is going beyond both the Bill and the Amendment, in which there is nothing anywhere about stamps.
§ Mr. Renton
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this is a Second Reading debate. I submit that, it being an amending Bill, it is permissible to deal with the subject matter of the previous legislation and that in any event the word "poundage" is synonymous virtually with the word "stamp." It is the poundage which is being increased in the Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On a point of order. Is it not a fact that for amounts which fall between the prescribed denominations of postal orders—that is, between 5s. and 6s., for example—the amount has to be made up by a stamp stuck on to the postal order? I submit with very great respect that the colour of stamps is, therefore, a material matter in consideration of all questions affecting postal orders.
§ Mr. Renton
Those are the only comments I have to make by way of constructive suggestion about the contents of the Bill, and I revert now to the speech of the right hon. Member for Caerphilly.
I will willingly give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he will answer this question, because he dealt with a matter which is of fundamental importance, not only in the context of the Bill, but in relation to so many nationalisation problems which arise and of which this is an example. That is why I venture to put it before the House. If I have recorded him rightly, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government should relate their charges to the cost of particular services. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether that is the most recent exposition of Socialist doctrine as to the costing of nationalised industries?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not know what that has to do with the debate. What I was contending was that by and large the Post Office should be run as a commercial undertaking over all its services, making charges that related to the service and not treating them as a means of getting extraordinary revenue.
§ Mr. Renton
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's answer is inconsistent with itself. Either we can say that a particular service like the Post Office is to pay when everything has come out at the end of the financial year, so 1870 that there is a profit taking all its services together—a profit on some and a loss on others—or we can say what the right hon. Gentleman appears to say in his speech and at the end of his remarks just now, that we can relate each charge to the cost of the particular service to which it refers with a view to making that service pay. If that is the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman favours it is of course very proper, as a matter of policy, that the country should know.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Member says "if that is" as if he has some doubt about it and then goes on to argue on the basis that it is so. Really he should listen to what is said. What I said was that, by and large, over all the services we should try to arrange that at the end of the year we get a commercial surplus. If we were to impose increases, the great virtue for increasing a charge is in that section of the services which is incurring a loss. There are other considerations which enter into the matter. As he knows, the telegraph service will not stand a greater charge—it would kill it—but that is not true of every other service. In that sense, in a purely efficient commercial way, one has to look at the Post Office and not regard it as a means of getting taxation for the Chancellor.
§ Mr. Renton
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; we shall read and correlate the various statements with a view to seeing where the Socialist Party stand in regard to these matters.
One important question which arises is that of the Post Office surplus. I think it regrettable that all parties in the past have grown to regard the Post Office as a revenue-producing Department. Candidly, I think that is regrettable. That does not mean that there is no need for this charge. As my hon. Friend pointed out, this charge is necessary for a twofold reason; first, that Post Office costs generally have increased in the last two years by 25 per cent. and, secondly, the cost of operating this particular service has also increased.
Thirdly, the object for the Post Office, as for all other nationalised industries, should be, first, to make them pay after running them as economically as possible and, secondly, if there is a surplus, they should pass the benefit of the surplus on to the consumer so far as possible. Personally, I think all parties 1871 have been to blame in the past in allowing the Post Office to reach its present stage. I do not think that on discussion of this Bill we can blame the Government, even if it should be found that they are making this increase to sustain the surplus.
I hope you will stop me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I get out of order; it is very difficult to discuss this argument without referring to other matters as well. We have to face the fact that when the Chancellor made his Budget, of which these charges were an essential part, he had very little room in which to manoeuvre. The country was plunging towards bankruptcy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Members may groan, but they are groaning only at their own performance—plunging towards bankruptcy at the rate of £100 million a month after borrowing £2,000 million in six years.
That did not give the Chancellor very much opportunity for making those radical changes in the financial structure of our country which he might well have wished to make. He has made some and is beginning on others, but he could not make them all. Expressing a purely personal view, I hope the day will come when the Chancellor will regard the Post Office as a service which should be provided for the country at the minimum possible cost.
Turning to the Amendment, I am quite amazed that hon. Members opposite should put down an Amendment in such a severe form of self-criticism. The Amendment suggests that things should be done which I know the right hon. Gentleman had started to try to do during his tenure of office—a very distinguished tenure, if I may say so—but which his party had six years in which to do it. There were six years in which he would have had a great deal of encouragement from all sides of the House if he or his predecessors had made a serious attempt to improve matters. If this criticism is merited—and I am not saying that it is—it is criticism which should be directed against the party opposite for their wasted opportunities.
As to the last lines of the Amendment, at the risk of repeating a remark I made in opening my speech, I say that it is simply playing politics and has very little relation to the serious foundations of the Bill to say that this places an unfair 1872 burden on the poorer sections of the community. That is not a very notable contribution to national recovery.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, Northwest)
I was astonished at the speech of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton). He has not attempted to deal with the subject matter of the Bill, nor with the Amendment. He has made political attacks which he knows to be entirely wrong. He suggests that within the six years we happened to be in office we did not do enough. How often has he said that we did too much?
Does he really think that it was possible in the course of six years to clear up all the mess left by our predecessors and, at the same time, to deal with every point which he would have rectified? It will not do. He admits that my right hon. Friend was proposing to put into operation the improvements to which he referred. It was only because, unfortunately, not a majority, but a large portion, of the electorate chose to displace my right hon. Friend that we were not able to proceed along the lines he indicated.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
This is a very important point. We have not been told as yet in this debate, or at any other time as far as I am aware, that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) did, in fact, intend to put these important reforms into operation. This afternoon we have been told that he had been thinking about that.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
If the hon. Member had followed the previous debate he would have known that I said that we had arrived at political agreement with regard to the payment by other Departments and I discussed it with the then Prime Minister and agreed in principle to the appointment of a new Bridgeman Committee.
§ Mr. Janner
I was about to say that myself. I am glad of the intervention, but it was not necessary because, if the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) had been present he would have known that his hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) 1873 had admitted that progress was being made in that regard. If the hon. Member refers to HANSARD tomorrow he will see that there was no need for him to make that intervention.
On the political aspect of this matter, there can be no question that before the advent of the very important Labour Government which did so much—[An HON. MEMBER: "Too much."] There we are, an hon. Member says "Too much," yet the hon. Member for Walton says it was not enough. Probably hon. Members opposite will be able to come to some modus vivendi between themselves in due course.
Coming to the subject-matter of the Amendment, anyone who examines it must come to the conclusion that it ought to be supported. In dealing with the reason why it should be supported, I will take, first, the second part of the Amendment. I ask hon. Members whether it is not a fact that this Bill is an attack upon the poorer sections of the community——
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Bucks, South) rose——
§ Mr. Janner
I have given way sufficiently for the moment. Perhaps I will give way to the hon. Member later.
This is a very important Measure indeed, because it shows that there is a direct attack in the Bill itself upon the poorer sections of the community. I will give examples to show how. I take, first, the question of payments by instalments. When a person enters into a hire-purchase agreement it is because he is not sufficiently wealthy to be able to purchase that commodity outright, except when, under certain special circumstances, he wishes to have service during the period of the agreement. Under such an agreement a person has to send the payment either by cash or by postal order or by money order——
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is it not a fact that the overwhelming majority of payments made under hire-purchase arrangements are made in cash either at the place of purchase or to a legal agent? Has the hon. Gentleman ever studied the operations of Great Universal Stores, of which I understood he was a supporter?
§ Mr. Janner
I know a lot, in a legal capacity, about the hire-purchase system; 1874 I know much more than does the hon. Member about the operation of the system.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sure that the hon. Member knows a great deal about it, but it is not in order to deal with it on this Bill.
§ Mr. Janner
I was challenged as to my ability to illustrate, from the point of view of the hire-purchase system, the assertion made in the Amendment I know exactly what happens in that respect, and if the hon. Member wishes to have details, I will tell him later, and he will be convinced.
Usually a person has either to send his hire-purchase instalment by post or pay the transport charges entailed by having to go to the office and pay in cash, or else he has to take the risk of sending cash by ordinary post. The result is that every time an instalment of that nature is paid the person paying it has to pay the charge of a postal order, and he has to pay an additional charge which has been imposed on postage by the Government, which is so anxious to do so much for so many. The cost of the postage stamp has been increased, and now that of the postal order will be increased, and every instalment that is paid will incur an additional charge.
Let me give another illustration. I take the position of the tenant of a house. According to the law, and it is being used in a very harsh manner by many landlords, the landlord is not compelled to call upon a tenant to collect the rent—that matter has been raised in this House on a number of occasions. The tenant is thus compelled to send his rent to the landlord by post. Every week, if the landlord insists upon that right, the tenant has to send a postal order or cash.
The additional 1d. charge or 2d. charge which is to be made is of considerable importance to poor tenants. It means nothing to the rich tenant, but it means a considerable amount to a poor tenant. [An HON. MEMBER: "A penny."] Oh, yes, a penny means a lot to those whom we are considering, and that is why I say that our Amendment is particularly applicable in asserting that the Bill strikes at the poorest elements of the community.
I will give another example. There are many county courts which have made orders for payments by instalments. The 1875 hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) is himself a lawyer. Does he realise that hundreds of thousands of these orders are made throughout the country, under which the person who is to make the payment must either go to the county court, which may be miles away from where he is living, or must send the small instalments, which may be as small as 1s., 2s. or 5s. a month, by means of cash, which may be lost in the post, or by means of a postal order?
Every time such a person sends his 5s., the additional 1d. will mean a considerable amount to him. Such a sum does not mean much perhaps to the one who is paying by means of a cheque, but it represents a lot to the poorest elements in our community, people who have been unable to meet their debts in full, and whose circumstances are so poor that they have been allowed to pay by small instalments.
These may appear to be trivialities to the Assistant Postmaster-General, but they are not so to many hundreds of thousands of people to whom a 1d. makes a world of difference, and who have to be considered in these matters. There is the question of the small gambler—the man who participates in the football pools, for example. We may agree with the system or not; that is a matter which does not come within the scope of today's debate. The fact is, however, that if a small gambler wishes to send an entry to a football pool he will be charged more. If he happens to be a person who sends bets amounting to thousands of pounds to a bookmaker, the 2d. stamp on his cheque is sufficient.
It has been suggested that a service is given by the bank but that makes the position even worse than if there were no such service. I say that because for that 2d. the bank gives a service whereas for the postal order one buys there is no service rendered at all except the service which is referred to in the other part of the Amendment. I could further illustrate the difficulties that will come to poor people——
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
Surely the bank is paid by the bank charge, and not by the stamp.
§ Mr. Janner
Well, it depends. Perhaps the hon. Member has not made proper 1876 arrangements with his bank manager. There are many people who get through without paying the bank charge to which he refers.
§ Sir I. Fraser
But even if that is so, it is not the stamp on the cheque which pays the bank. That is a tax, is it not?
§ Mr. Janner
The stamp on the cheque is taken by the Revenue and that is precisely what we are driving at. The Assistant Postmaster-General must know that it is not a question of the Post Office which is involved here. It is a question of the Treasury forcing out of the poorest —I do not say that in a political sense, I think this should be regarded irrespective of party because it is of material importance—there is no point in the hon. Member for Kidderminster sneering about it——
§ Mr. Nabarro rose——
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Member must realise that his own constituents feel the same way and that if he asks them he will find that is so.
The fact is that the Postmaster-General is now being compelled to take from the pockets of those who cannot afford it a very substantial sum of money in order to help the Exchequer. In our Amendment we asked that, before a charge of this kind is levied, there should be:an opportunity of examining the organisation of the Post Office financial system with a view to providing for accounting on a commercial basis.Only a few days ago I pointed out by means of Questions and supplementary questions in this House that not only are the poor, as we understand that term this afternoon, being affected, but that the very life-blood of this country is being affected in consequence of the fact that the Treasury is compelling the Post Office to act as the Treasury's instrument against the best interests of the country.
The same kind of thing is happening with the addition on the postage for air mail. The export system of this country is being heavily attacked. It cannot send abroad samples, even for textiles, to a proper extent because of the additional charges. In this Bill there is another illustration of the same thing; something which instead of affecting the commercial community is affecting the poorest who cannot, or ought not to be, called to contribute towards the Treasury in the manner suggested.
1877 There have been a lot of quotations this afternoon and I would commend one quotation to the Assistant Postmaster-General which may help him in this matter. It would appear that the Treasury have been reading Wordsworth of late. Perhaps they have read this particular quotation:To me the meanest flower that blows can giveThoughts that do lie too deep for tears.The meanest flower here has brought thoughts that lie far too deep for tears so far as the community is concerned, but not too deep for tears so far as the Exchequer is concerned. They are going to the meanest flower—the humblest people—to wreak vengeance on the community as a whole, by taking coppers from the pockets of the people for a service which ought to be carried out—as has already been pointed out—for the benefit of those who use it.
I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General, having referred to the fact that a new machine is to be introduced for the purpose of producing postal orders, will not overlook the fact that that is due to those serving the community at Dollis Hill. It is a great misfortune that those who serve in the postal service should have to be faced with objections created by us, particularly when those objections are based upon the use of the customer's money for the purpose of helping in a direction which is entirely outside their field.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
The speech made by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) did not even follow his customary lines of exaggeration. This time he floated happily in the realms of hyperbole. He exaggerated ten thousand fold the very minor effects that these modest increases in the postal order charges will have on the community——
§ Mr. Nabarro
When I have finished this sentence I shall be happy to give way.
I would remind the House exactly what this Bill proposes to do, particularly in view of the diatribe, the long drawn out diatribe from the hon. Member, that only the very poorest section of the community would be affected by the Bill. 1878 The proposals are, for postal orders up to 1s. there should be an increase of ½d.; postal orders from 1s. 6d. to 5s. will also cost ½d. more; postal orders from 6s. to 21s. will cost 1d. more, and postal orders of 40s. will cost 2d. more.
§ Mr. Janner
As the hon. Member is so sure of his ground, will he tell the House how much money it is expected will be raised from these pennies and halfpennies, and then say who will pay them?
§ Mr. Nabarro
If the hon. Gentleman will abide in patience for a short while he will hear all these facts alluded to in the course of my speech.
Representing, as I do, the ancient borough of Kidderminster, I have, of course, an abiding interest in the matter of postal charges, for I am sure my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General will not have forgotten that Sir Rowland Hill, who introduced the penny post, was born in Kidderminster, and that his statue now adorns the approaches to the town hall.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member says that he would turn in his grave. I will relate to him a very amusing story which will also effectively reply to the grossly false assertions made by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West. During the last Parliament postal charges were increased by a Socialist Government. The last vestige of the penny post finally disappeared in 1951 as a result of legislation introduced by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) during his term of office as Postmaster-General.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The right hon. Gentleman is very honest in his approach to these matters. He is nodding his head vigorously. He knows that he is the culprit in the matter.
What did the burgesses of Kidderminster do when the last vestige of the penny post disappeared? They dressed the statue of Rowland Hill in black. It was done in the dead of night. Nobody discovered who was responsible for dressing up the statue. But it was an 1879 expression of their dissatisfaction with the fact that the Socialist Minister who was responsible for these matters had found it necessary to make those increased charges.
I do not say that in similar circumstances a Conservative Minister might not also have been obliged to make those increased charges. What I object to is the cant, hypocrisy and humbug of hon. Gentlemen opposite who seem to infer by their speeches that these increased charges would only be made under a Conservative Government and that they would never have been made under a Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Nabarro
It is no good the hon. Gentleman nodding his head. Tomorrow he can read his speech in HANSARD. He will find it there.
§ Mr. Janner
It is a Conservative Government who are imposing the charges. That is what we are complaining about.
§ Mr. Nabarro
A Conservative Government is imposing these charges as a result of the inflationary policy pursued for six years by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But let me return to a few non-party matters.
It has been said that the increase in costs to the General Post Office this year as compared with two years ago will be of the order of 25 per cent. It is much more important that the increase in cost should be expressed in pounds. So far as the Post Office assessors are able to estimate at present, they estimate that the increase will be of the order of £50 million in the year 1952–53 as compared with a similar accounting period two years ago. But out of that £50 million £33 million is accounted for by increased salaries, wages and pension fund allotments. Thirty-three million pounds out of £50 million is on account of those three items. That is a major consideration.
Last November, only a few weeks after the present Government took office, there was a substantial increase in pay awarded to almost all grades serving in the Post Office. I was especially pleased that the ordinary postman grades, the lower paid grades in the Post Office, received a substantial share of that increase in wages. 1880 I have felt for many years—and I know that sympathy with this view will be expressed in all parts of the House—that two categories of public servants have been consistently underpaid in the last 50 years—railway employees and Post Office employees.
It may be said that Post Office employees enjoy special pension benefits, security of tenure in their employment and other similar advantages. It is a fact, however, that the ordinary postmen, those who walk on their flat feet from door to door in all sorts of weathers, especially in the rural areas, were deserving of a substantially higher rate of pay than that which they enjoyed in the five or six years immediately after the war. I welcomed that increase in pay.
But 66⅔ per cent. of all the increased costs of the Post Office this year are accounted for by increases in wages, salaries and pension fund allotments. Therefore, this modest charge which the present Government seek to add to postal orders in their various categories can be off-set as to two-thirds against the increased cost of wages, salaries and pension fund allotments.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
If the hon. Gentleman refers to the statement made by the Assistant Postmaster-General he will recognise that this proposed increased charge will raise £1 million more than is required to meet all these increases in relation to this service and will leave a profit of £100,000.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not think that— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is becoming vociferous. He has just walked into the Chamber for the first time. He has no knowledge of what has been said on either side of the House before his arrival. I advise him to keep quiet until he has more knowledge of the subject.
I do not believe that it is possible to extract one item of cost from the general background of all Post Office costs and charges and to say that this will show an excess over expenditure in any chargeable accounting period. Surely each item should be considered in relation to the finances of the Post Office as a whole. I am informed in this matter that the postal order service would have shown a deficit of £130,000 in the current chargeable accounting period had it not been for the increased charges. Clearly, if the Post 1881 Office as a whole is to break even, or to show a modest profit, it is desirable that each constituent part of the whole should equally show a modest profit or at least break even.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. As he himself admitted, were it not for these increased charges the Post Office estimate that on this service they would lose £130,000. The Assistant Postmaster-General has agreed that the charge he now imposes on this service will raise £1,300,000. That really answers the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On the contrary, it does nothing of the sort. The right hon. Gentleman is applying his disingenuous argument and trying to pull wool over the eyes of everybody who has listened throughout the debate. I can only repeat that each constituent part of the Post Office service should break even or make a small profit. Whether the amount of £1 million materialises can only be judged in 1953 when the accounts for the Post Office for the previous accounting period become known.
The right hon. Gentleman had a great deal to say about football pools. His hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West made out a case, or attempted to do so, to show that these additional postal order charges would afflict only the poorer section of the community. I wonder who can say how many tens of millions of pounds are spent on football pools each year.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is an authority on these matters. I readily accept that figure as being correct. I do not do football pools myself. I have never done them or engaged in them.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Neither does any member of my family. At the same time, I have no objection to anyone else doing them if they wish. I have no objection to anybody taking part. It is fair to say that most football pool bets are paid by postal order. I am told also that the average investment per week in a football pool is 2s. 6d. I stand to be corrected by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am most grateful, because I am trying to pursue an arithmetical calculation. If £60 million is spent in a year on football pools and the average contribution is about 2s. 6d. and most of them are paid for by postal order, then something like 480 million postal orders are used for paying football pool speculations in a year.
As a result of this Bill the average investment of 2s. 6d., if it is made by postal order, will cost each investor an extra halfpenny. I suggest to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West that the majority of all postal orders used in the lower denominations are used for football pool purposes.
§ Mr. Nally
The hon. Gentleman has put forward a fascinating point. He must realise that it would have been far more simple and honest to say that at present the State takes 30 per cent. of total football pools revenue in tax, and that it could have raised anything it wanted by increasing the direct tax by 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. That would have raised slightly more than the figure which the Assistant Postmaster-General wants and it would have done it without involving anyone in hardship—such as a person living in my division and working somewhere else who wants to send money home to his family.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; that is a point of view. All I am doing is responding to the expression of opinion from the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, who said that these increases in charges hit only the poorest section of the community. In fact, the people who are to contribute a large part of the increased charges for postal orders are the people who buy postal orders for football pools.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Gentleman is entirely misrepresenting what I said. I said that, in so far as gamblers were concerned—and I expressed no opinion whether it was good, bad or indifferent—it was the poor gambler, the poor man 1883 who wanted to have his flutter, who was affected, as against the rich man who would not be caught by it.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Does the hon. Gentleman really suggest to the House that it will be a material consideration to the football pool gambler, even if he is a little man, whether he has to pay an extra halfpenny for his postal order? Of course it is not; he will still make the same speculation, and he will not notice the halfpenny.
On the hon. Gentleman's point about the taxation of football pools, may I remind him that, quite apart from the 30 per cent. direct taxation on football pools today, a football pool undertaking pays Income Tax on profits at the rate of 9s. 6d. in the £, Profits Tax at a rate of 2½per cent. on retained profits and of 22½ per cent. on distributed profits, and 30 per cent. in respect of Excess Profits Levy.
§ Mr. Nally
On a point of order. I would appreciate your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in case I am fortunate enough to catch your eye later. Far be it from me to defend the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), but I would have thought myself that, if one was arguing about a particular industry that is primarily involved in the Bill to which we are now asked to give a Second Reading, the way in which that particular industry handles its accounts, what it pays and does not pay—which are points on which the hon. Gentleman and I would have a very serious disagreement indeed—are relevant if one is putting forward, as one is entitled to do on Second Reading, alternatives directly in relation to those who are the recipients, eventually, of a large part of the finance that is embodied in this Bill. I submit, with great respect, that what the hon. Gentleman said is relevant, and that even to say what football pool firms do and do not do is directly related to the Bill, 80 per cent. of which may be concerned with football pool revenue.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think it is, because the Bill only increases the poundage on postal orders.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall endeavour not to stray outside the rules of order in future, but I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will allow me to say in conclusion on this point, that the football pools do pay approximately 70 per cent. of their profits in direct taxation to the Chancellor as an aggregate of Income Tax, Profits Tax and Excess Profits Levy.
I said that, of the £50 million additional costs which the Post Office will have to face this year on account of miscellaneous causes, about two-thirds would be attributed to wages, salaries and pension fund allotments. The remaining one-third of the additional cost, which is, after all, primarily the cause of increased postal order charges, is on account of a variety of operational items.
Those hon. Members opposite who pointed an accusing finger at my hon. Friend for making increases in the charges have conveniently forgotten the fact that the postal services are essentially a matter of distribution, and that distributive costs are the principal item which enter into the whole question involved in the costs of postal services of every character. Hon. Members opposite would do well to remember that, in 1950, a Socialist Government, for the first time, introduced Purchase Tax on commercial vehicles. In the following year, they increased the petrol duty for the third time since the end of the war. These two items alone would have added millions of pounds to the cost of postal services.
A very high percentage of the postal services are now carried out by road transport, both in urban and rural areas. Every new Post Office van which has had to be bought since 1950 has had to pay Purchase Tax. All the petrol consumed in these vans since 1950—and that is the basic year to which I refer in connection with the increase in operating costs—has cost something of the order of 1s. 6d. per gallon more than it cost two years ago. On account of the action taken by a Socialist Government in pursuing a policy which was thoroughly inflationary, and that is, after all, the reason——
§ Mr. Nabarro
With very great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is impossible to justify the reasons for the increased 1885 charges for postal orders, which is the purpose of the Bill, without putting forward the causes of the increased costs of postal services and those causes, in my respectful submission, are actions of a fiscal character taken by the late Socialist Administration. That is the principal cause of these increases in charges. I hope, therefore, that I may be permitted, within the rules of order, to refer to the provisions of the Finance Acts of 1950 and 1951—Socialist Measures.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. I think the rest of the House would be grateful for a Ruling as to how far a discussion of fiscal changes generally, and, in particular, the increase in the petrol duty in 1950, is relevant to the question before the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
My opinion was that it was not relevant, because this Bill deals with the rates of poundage on postal orders, and I think we have got beyond that now.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I shall try, for the remainder of my speech, to keep strictly in order. I hope that you will allow me to make some reference to devaluation of sterling in 1949, which, after all, is the cause of so many raw commodities increasing in cost by 40 per cent. and thus adding to the operating costs of the Post Office. That is a primary consideration among the matters which have led to my hon. Friend increasing the charges.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The whole onus of responsibility for raising the charges for postal orders in this Bill must rest fairly and squarely on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly and his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who introduced the pernicious Finance Bill of 1951.
May I now pass to more constructive matters? I cannot quite understand why it has been necessary in this Bill only to 1886 deal with the price of postal orders and to exclude money orders.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying "Order," but I believe that, on Second Reading, it would be permissible to refer to exclusions from the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I said "Order" because I saw an hon. Member on that side of the House walking between the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and the Chair, which, I understand, is a breach of order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
Does not that frequently happen on both sides of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman merely wasting time by drawing your attention to the matter?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I have no doubt, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman concerned will have incurred your displeasure for a breach of good order, and I will therefore pursue the point I was making.
I cannot understand why only postal order charges have been alluded to in this small Bill and why money orders, and the price of them, have been excluded from consideration under it. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General can inform us on that point.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I must protest against the rag and tatter method by which we appear to be proceeding in this matter. Why is it necessary to continue to have this distinction between postal and money orders? Why cannot we have one document to cover the whole field?
§ Mr. Gammans
The difference is this. A postal order is for a much smaller amount and has a far less rigid degree of security. In the case of a money order, an arrangement is made with the office for acceptance, and that is why it is used more for higher amounts. I do not want to dilate on the point, but that is the explanation.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I quite agree that there are minor reasons for this difference, but is it not possible to introduce one document which will serve the dual purpose? Does the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) wish to intervene? If he does, perhaps he will get to his feet.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. He is confusing me with someone else. I did not speak at all. This is the second time he has shown discourtesy to me and it is something I have come to expect from him.
§ Mr. Silverman rose——
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has only been here for 10 minutes. He has no knowledge whatever of Post Office affairs, but if he sits there long enough he will learn a good deal about Post Office administration.
The hon. Gentleman who referred to a charge of 6d. for money orders may or may not be correct, but it should be possible to strike an average charge for all denominations of postal and money orders. I do not think that the present duality of procedure should be allowed to continue. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) had a good deal to say about Government Departments and the contribution they make, or do not make, to the finances of the Post Office on account of the charges they incur for postal, telephonic and telegraphic services.
It appears to me that the system which has obtained during the last few years of Government Departments not paying for postal, telephonic and telegraphic services is a direct incentive to extravagance. It seems to me that if the Ministry of Supply—I only quote that Ministry as one example; I am not striking at my right hon. Friend who is only one of many Ministers in this administration—or any one of its officials is able to put through an indeterminate number of long distance telephone calls from London to an undefined number of contractors or others in the north of England or any other part of the country——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have been very patient with the hon. Gentleman, but if he continues to be irrelevant I shall ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but several hon. Members have alluded to the question of the costs incurred by Government Departments, and they were not ruled out of order.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The Amendment refers to a financial system with a view to accounting on a commercial basis. It is the Government Departments who are at present not contributing to this proper commercial basis for the conduct of Post Office affairs.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have had to stop the hon. Gentleman so often from going beyond the Bill that I am really getting tired of it.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall conclude by saying that the present system is an incentive to extravagance on the part of Government Departments and that what in commercial circles is generally known as budgetary control over all costs incurred by an undertaking should certainly be applied to Government Departments in order that a proper financial relation may be maintained with the affairs of the General Post Office.
I hope that the House will reject the Amendment. In my view, it has no relevancy at all to the financial considerations which have motivated the presentation of this Bill for Second Reading. I have dealt very amply with the charge in the last few words of the Amendment that this slight increase in the cost of postal orders affects most seriously the poorer section of the community. In fact, it largely affects investors in the football pools and also largely affects the commercial community. I consider that it does not affect more than 5 per cent. of those who are genuinely poor and genuinely in the lower income groups. The amount of the increase is so modest, almost infinitesimal, that there is no excuse for the purely sectional, partisan and party political approach to it by so many hon. Members opposite.
As I have said I hope the House will reject this curious Amendment and will vote unanimously in support of the proposals contained in the Bill, and presented, if I may say so with respect, so ably by my hon. Friend.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) referred to the existence in Kidderminster of a statue of Rowland Hill, which on one occasion was, I understand, draped in black. It is a matter of deep regret to my Socialist friends in Kidderminster that no statue of the hon. Member exists there so that it could be draped in black after the result of the next General Election, a duty which we should be happy to perform and which we should certainly fulfil.
As one who does not claim that his speeches in this House are a success, but usually bore it, I would tender a word of friendly advice to the hon. Gentleman. If he would be a little less pompous both in his attitude and his phraseology, then some of the hard facts that he deploys in his speeches would receive a better reception than they in fact get. In short, he suffers the great defect of invariably doing himself less than justice. His performance this afternoon accorded with most of the other speeches I have heard him make on this matter.
To deal with one or two of the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman, he said in his concluding sentences that, after all, there are only 5 per cent. of people who are entitled to complain about this increase. The other 95 per cent. are gamblers.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I gave way three times to him, so he can have no feeling about giving way to me now. I did not say that 95 per cent. were gamblers. I said that 95 per cent. of the users of postal orders were those who invested in football pools and the commercial community. The commercial community is, of course, a very large section of the total users of postal orders.
§ Mr. Nally
I have already warned the hon. Gentleman about his pomposity and I do so again now. He did not give way to me three times; he asked me for information which I was good enough to give him. The point I was making was that even if there were only 5 per cent. of the poorer classes affected by this increase, it is psychologically bad, and may in some cases be grossly unjust.
For example, it is part of the policy of the present Government, as it was of the last, to encourage people to be willing to 1890 move from one industry to another, even if it means leaving their homes temporarily and going to live somewhere else. On my estimate, I have in my own division at least 150 workers who have been specially brought in and who send their wages home every week by postal order. The 2d., 3d., 4d. or 5d. a week may not be important in terms of money, but in these days we are dealing with psychological impact, as well as actual impact in terms of cash. Therefore, if we produce a situation where there is ½d. on this and 1d. on that, week after week, and month after month, the cumulative effect of this process is bound to be disastrous for the nation as a whole.
In some cases these small increases are unavoidable. In this case they are not. I am prepared to accept that in certain instances there may have to be this or that increase, but on the Second Reading of this Bill we are discussing an increase which we on this side of the House, as we state clearly in our Amendment, believe to be financially unnecessary and demonstrably unjust in its impact; that is to say, it cannot be justified at all in terms of normal, commercial bookkeeping, of which the hon. Member for Kidderminster was so admirable an exponent in this House when his party were in opposition. He has adopted a different kind of book-keeping now that his party are in power—a well-known course which sometimes rightly leads to more serious consequences when practised outside than when it is practised in this House.
I invite the Assistant Postmaster-General to reply precisely to a serious point about this Bill which my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has put so clearly and about which I do not think there is any dispute on either side of the House. It is simply that this is a Treasury Bill and not a Post Office Bill at all. It strikes me as not unworthy of comment that, during the whole of these proceedings, we have not had the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the Chamber, although his name is on this Bill. We should have liked to address certain questions to him. Indeed, if the Government had had more regard to matters of genuine information, they might well have thought it appropriate that the Financial Secretary should intervene in this debate.
1891 This is a complete Treasury Bill designed to raise revenue, but it raises it in an entirely wrong way. If I may say so with respect, none of us in this House can pose as complete innocents in the treatment of the Post Office. I have said before in this House, and in various discussions outside, that it is an absolutely shameful and disgraceful thing that the Post Office, possibly the most efficient Post Office in the world, providing the most comprehensive range of services to meet the social requirements of the people, should have been handicapped for years past, and particularly since the beginning of the war, by the imposition upon it of unfair burdens by successive Governments, even though it may be that in some of the cases the imposition was unavoidable.
This Bill brings that sad, sorry and unfair process to a logical conclusion. If I say one sentence about this, I do not think I shall be out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This Treasury Bill relating to the Post Office embodies a form of taxation which, for good or bad reasons, it was not thought convenient to embody in the Finance Bill. That is to say, there is not a penny of the revenue that will result from this Bill that could not have been more conveniently raised, and with less injustice and hardship in other ways. There is not a penny of this money that could not have been obtained by a better, healthier financial process which would have been far fairer to the Post Office—a Post Office about which I am glad to say we have had from both sides of the House some expressions of praise which were long overdue.
I accept, of course, that the greater proportion of the postal orders sold over Post Office counters in this country are intended for use in football pool gambling.
§ Mr. Nally
There is no doubt about that. The hon. Member for Kidderminster was anxious to pose as a defender of the little man who, he said, is entitled to his bet. But when Sir Stafford Cripps raised the price of beer, how often did a howl go up from the other side of the House about the imposition on the little man? It is quite impossible to deploy with logic the argument which the 1892 hon. Member deployed when one looks back at the attitude of the party opposite in years past towards things like taxation on gambling, betting and so on. When, quite rightly, a 30 per cent. tax was imposed on football pools, it was hon. Members opposite who got scared by the vast publicity campaign launched by the pool millionaires whilst we, without the Whips, remained solid in the view that if revenue had to be raised that was as good a way of doing it as any.
The Assistant Postmaster-General does not appear to have taken into account one financial consequence of this Bill. During the past two and a half to three years there has been a most interesting development in football pool traffic in that more and more bookmakers are going into the business of the fixed odds coupon. That coupon is circulated in licensed premises. In Manchester alone there are at least 80 separate firms circulating these coupons and the number is growing rapidly. In strict theory that kind of coupon is illegal. But it has the advantage that the coupon is filled in and the cash is passed over——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that to go into detail on football pools and the way they are financed is really to go beyond the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. Nally
The hon. Member for Kidderminster is now wasting time on my serious point, which is that any increase in the price of postal orders now or during the next football pool season will increase this process whereby quite a substantial amount, growing steadily over the last two seasons, transfers itself from the straight postal order pool transaction. In the ordinary way, the postal order has to be bought and posted and has to reach the football pool firms by a certain time.
Other organisations are increasingly doing their best to secure arrangements whereby more and more betting on pools becomes a cash transaction. The Assistant Postmaster-General should go into this matter. I really ought to say and stress 1893 that the Treasury ought to investigate it. I hope I do not speak offensively to the Assistant Postmaster-General, but he is a complete cypher here. He has had no say in this Bill at all. He is here merely to take and bear whatever criticisms may be forthcoming.
As this process of betting to which I have referred grows, more and more money will flow into organisations which certainly do not meet the requirements of the Treasury, because most of the bookmakers' runners who operate this process do not pay proper tax on their commission. This process also leads to the transfer of an X amount of money from the normal postal order practice to channels which, from the point of view of the Revenue, are completely undesirable.
I should like to make one other minor point. This Bill is badly conceived because it does not have regard to those existing sources of revenue from which the same result could be obtained with far less trouble. We are all agreed on both sides of the House that the majority of postal orders derive from football pool traffic. Surely the Post Office ought to consider what it charges the football pools for the excellent comprehensive services it gives them.
It was held to be in order when some hon. Member asked how much money in the form of postal orders was lost through dishonesty. It may not be known to hon. Members that because of the development of the football pool traffic a good deal of the work of the investigation staff of the Post Office—who are, I trust, reasonably well paid and are extremely efficient—consists of investigating circumstances which have arisen in the Post Office through the theft of postal orders and so forth.
A good deal of this work is directly devoted to investigating cases that derive directly from the services that the Post Office provides to the football pool promoters. It would have been perfectly possible for the Assistant Postmaster-General, instead of introducing this wretched little Bill, to have introduced a Bill which would have provided that in the case of that particular traffic, the pools, he should be able to make special new postal charges because of the extraordinarily efficient services that the Post Office supplies to this industry.
1894 The Assistant Postmaster-General made a name in this House from 1945 onwards by the vigour and pugnacity of his constant attacks. It seems apparent to me that he must have undergone, possibly without knowing it, a remarkable filleting operation. Whatever backbone there was has now been taken out. I am sorry about this appalling fact. So, I notice, are the "Express" newspapers which used to have a high regard for him.
I urge him, even though he is bound hand and foot to this wretched little document, to do what I am certain would have been done by my party, because we had reached a stage where we were convinced that it had to be done. I hope that in other matters he will at least have the courage to say, as I hope any new Labour Government will, that the time has come when the Post Office should be regarded as having the dignity and prestige that it deserves and that it should not be simply used as a Department to be penalised entirely at the Treasury's convenience whenever it is felt that a little extra revenue, no matter how dubiously gained, is a desirable thing.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I wish to refer to something which I feel has been unduly emphasised by hon. Members opposite, namely, the terms of the Amendment, which lay great emphasis on the charges that were made by hon. Members opposite that this Bill is an attack on the poorer sections of the community.
Most of the speeches that have been made on this side of the House have replied to those charges, but I cannot help thinking that it is a deliberate distortion of the facts to have ignored completely the steps that were taken by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) himself when he was Postmaster-General and by his predecessors in office at different times, all of which had precisely the same effect upon the purchaser of an article or a service over the counter of the Post Office as will this Bill.
We have heard some heartrending examples of people who have moved out of one constituency into another and who like to remit their salaries or wages home to their former constituency, and will have to buy a postal order at the enhanced charge in order to do so. Most 1895 of the people who will be in that position and who will wish to remit their wages to another area will do so by money order.
It was the right hon. Gentleman himself who, without any shame or apology and without having to face the necessity of introducing a Bill, increased the charge for money orders; and he certainly did not increase them in a modest fashion in the way that these charges are being increased under this Bill, but came to the House without preparation or apology and doubled the charges on money orders—precisely the thing which would affect most harshly those who are transferred from one area to another and wish to remit their wages home.
I draw from that argument the moral that almost everything that has been said on the other side of the House today has been said purely because no responsibility for these matters rests on the shoulders of hon. Members opposite. When they were sitting on these benches and carried responsibility, their approach to these matters was entirely different and, I would add, a good deal more honest and realistic.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
In introducing this short Bill, the Assistant Postmaster-General made a very reasonable speech. We welcome the new approach to these matters. Whatever may be said about the hon. Gentleman, there is one thing that he shares with his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), and that is that he is not publicity-shy. Never a weekend passes when we do not read extracts from speeches that he has made in various parts of the country. I follow these speeches, but I have not seen one reference by the Assistant Postmaster-General, or indeed by his noble Friend, to these increases which were announced, not by the Postmaster-General but by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, affecting Post Office charges.
There have been increases in the postal rates and telephone charges, and now we are discussing an increase in the poundage rate for postal orders. To the Assistant Postmaster-General I say that these increases are almost as objectionable to us as the sponsored television of which he was speaking last weekend, and I hope 1896 that on some future occasion when he is addressing a meeting he will pay some attention to this aspect of his Department.
The Amendment deals specifically with two points—first, the question of cash accounting, and secondly, the increase in the poundage, which we deplore because we think it is legislation of a class nature. Before the war there was cash accounting in the Post Office. It was suspended in 1940, and in that year there was no cash accounting and no commercial accounting. There were just the approximate audited accounts which were normally for inter-departmental use. From 1947 onwards there has been commercial accounting.
A case can be made for commercial accounting, and I propose to put forward one or two cogent arguments why commercial accounting is desirable. First, it unquestionably saves labour—there is no doubt about that—secondly, it is reasonably accurate; and thirdly, I suppose one can say, "Why go to the trouble of all this meticulous accounting when in any case the taxpayer has to pay the charges that are made by the various Government Departments for the services which the Post Office renders them?" Those are the three main reasons in favour of commercial accounting.
But I am going to suggest that a very real case can be made against it. I regret that when the Assistant Postmaster-General introduced the Bill, he did not say he was prepared to have a look at this question of cash accounting. It is no longer a valid reason to say that labour is not available for the purpose. Indeed, it has been the policy of the Government to make redundant quite considerable numbers of civil servants. If they are not temporary civil servants, they cannot be sacked; they have to be kept on; they have a security of tenure, and it is reasonable to suppose that they could be transferred to the appropriate Departments to do this sort of work.
There is the other argument that if one has cash accounting one gets complete accuracy with regard to the accounts. The other main point is that if cash accounting is adopted it unquestionably results in considerable economy in the various Government Departments. I think that is the main argument in favour of cash accounting. It is no good saying that the labour is not available; it is, and the job can be done.
1897 We on this side of the House are convinced—as I think are the majority of hon. Members opposite—that if this system of cash accounting were adopted, there would be a considerable economy in various Government Departments with regard to postage. Secondly, it would effect economy particularly with regard to telephones and telegrams. Those are the main arguments for and against.
I recollect that on the Finance Bill of 1948–49 the late Sir Stafford Cripps somewhat startled the House by stating that the Post Office was actually going to lose £8 million a year. There was a visible reaction among Members of the House, on whichever side they sat. That statement happened to be true, though at that time the Post Office was making a commercial surplus of £15 million. The reason for the difference was the services that were carried out by the Post Office on behalf of Government Departments.
The Assistant Postmaster-General, when speaking on 31st March this year on the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill, was quite forthcoming on this matter. He went as far as to say:From the Post Office point of view we would like to revert to that system."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1952; Vol. 498, c. 1191.]He was referring to the system of cash accounting. We should welcome a statement, when he replies, on whether his talks with his noble Friend the Postmaster-General and with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have resulted in any advance as far as cash accounting, instead of commercial accounting, in the Post Office is concerned.
With regard to the actual increase in the poundage, I have heard the argument made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster about the tremendously increased charges which the Post Office has to carry as a result of increased wages. That is perfectly true; but it is not a new situation. For instance, when I went into the Department early in 1947 there were something like 18 wage applications outstanding, and I well recollect my right hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wilfred Paling) saying, "You take nine and I will take nine." That situation has been operating since the end of the war.
The figure given by the Assistant Postmaster-General today with regard to 1898 the increase in the wages and pension payments was £33 million. When he spoke on the Post Office Bill, if my memory serves me rightly, he said that it was £28 million. We readily admit that that is a tremendous amount of money to be absorbed by the Post Office, and it does put the Post Office in rather a difficult situation with regard to its charges. That was one of the reasons my right hon. Friend had to increase the printed paper rate, and that is why the Assistant Postmaster-General has had to face further rate increases since he came into power.
Now I want to look at the position with regard to postal orders. In 1952–53 it is estimated—and it is only estimated; let us be perfectly frank about that, because we have not got the commercial accounts—that there will be a deficit of £133,000. In 1951–52 there was a surplus of over £100,000 on the postal order section. As a result of the increases which are now before us, there is to be a surplus on postal orders of over £1 million, which means, as my right hon. Friend said, that 10 times more profit is to be made on postal orders than in 1951–52. That means that that section of the work of the Post Office is being used for the purposes of relieving taxation as far as the Exchequer is concerned. It cannot be justified from the operation of that particular section of Post Office work.
There is one thing which strikes any hon. Member who holds office in the Post Office, and that is its resilience. We were warned continually that we were going to be "in the red" if increases were not made. Post Office work increases roughly by 5 per cent. every year. As far as postal orders are concerned, I suggest that there will not be the deficit that the hon. Gentleman has told the House to expect.
The revenue from postal orders represented, in 1949–50, 2.8 per cent. of the total Post Office revenue. In 1950–51 it represented 3 per cent. That proves that the number of postal orders issued was rising. If one takes it in terms of quantity there was an increase in the years I have mentioned of 12 per cent. so that in the last published commercial accounts there were something like 480 million postal orders issued.
1899 I should like to know how the hon. Gentleman arrives at the fact that the postal order section is actually losing money. I do not think it is easy to ascertain that. I suggest that it is quite a notional figure. How does one take into account the capital costs with regard to the issuing of postal orders? How does one charge up the time of the postal clerk in the issuing of postal orders? Surely we are not to be told that in every Post Office a time record is kept of the clerks and the various work they perform? It just is not done.
How does one allocate lighting, fuel and heating? Does one allocate them on a single postal order? Of course one does not. I should like the Assistant Postmaster-General to tell us how he arrives at that figure and, if the information is not available, I suggest to him in all seriousness and in a perfectly friendly manner that it would pay him to have a few conversations with his advisers on this particular question.
There is a further point. Millions of postal orders have already been supplied, and when this Bill becomes law we shall increase the poundage upon them. How is it proposed to collect the poundage? Is it to be done by postage stamps affixed to the postal orders?
As far as I can see, there is an omission from the Bill, although there may be a very good reason for it. There is no reference to the postal order of the 40s. denomination, the poundage on which, if the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is correct, is to be increased from 4d. to 6d. Is the omission due to the fact that no Parliamentary sanction is required? We should like to know, because it is an interesting point.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster suggested that every section of Post Office work should, as far as possible, be self-balancing. I understand that point of view, but we on this side of the House reject it, as, I think, will hon. Members opposite after reflection. If we leave out the telegraph service, as my right hon. Friend said, we look at it this way. It is a reasonable analogy in this connection to compare the Post Office with a transport undertaking. London Transport do not expect every route to pay. Some do, and some do not. We do not have varying charges for different routes; we have 1900 a common denominator. It is entirely wrong to set about trying to organise the Post Office in such a way that every type of work which it performs is self-balancing.
Quite frankly, we regard the postal order as the poor man's cheque. That is our case. I cannot equal the eloquence of my right hon. Friend in his description of the effect this increase will have upon the poor, but I do not think it is sufficiently realised that in working-class life the postal order serves exactly the same purpose as does the cheque for the higher and middle income groups. It seems to us unfair and entirely unreasonable that this section of the Post Office, which is losing very little money, even on the figures which have been given—figures which, in my submission, are entirely notional—should have to bear this increase in poundage.
One cannot suggest that a person buying an article and sending a postal order in payment, or a person having a flutter on the football pools, should have to pay the same as someone engaged in a transaction for thousands of pounds in the commercial world which he carries out by a banking account. The increase is wrong and, in our submission, entirely unfair. Those are the reasons why we put down the reasoned Amendment and why we shall divide the House.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans
I hope I may have the leave of the House to reply to some of the points raised. May I first of all deal with one or two of the factual points? The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) asked me what loss there had been through stolen postal orders. The figures are £2,800 out of a total turnover of £144 million—a figure which, I am glad to say, is going down; I do not mean that the number of postal orders is going down, for it is increasing, but that the losses are going down.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) and the hon. Member for Huntingdon asked me why the 40s. postal order had not been included. The reason is that Section 24 of the Post Office Act, 1908, as amended by the Post Office Act, 1935, gives the Postmaster-General authority to issue postal orders without any limit as to their 1901 amount. The limit of poundage of 2d. applied only to those postal orders under 21s., which, again, comes under the Amendment Act. From that arises this rather curious position, as I said at the beginning of the debate—that we have to come here and present a Bill to the House on the question of increasing the poundage from 2d. to 3d. Poundage is fixed by Post Office Regulations under Section 1 (2) of the Act of 1935.
The third point raised concerned the vexed question of whether Government Departments should be charged for the telephone, telegraph and postal services rendered to them. Several hon. Members raised the point, among them the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) and the right hon. Member for Caerphilly. I have nothing to add to what I said to the House the other day—that we regard this as not only a very desirable thing in itself but as something at which we shall aim very quickly. In fact, I had hoped that today I should have been able to make some sort of announcement on that subject.
I think it is desirable, and the whole House, I think, regards it as desirable, but I am bound to point out that it would not make any direct difference to Post Office revenue. The fact is that Government Departments now have to pay a credit to the Post Office commercial accounts for the services which we render to them. It is a credit which we take as a result of a sample of the traffic. This change would not mean that we, as a Post Office, would get more revenue. In fact, temporarily we might get a little less. That is not the reason we want to make the change.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I think that if the hon. Member reads HANSARD tomorrow he will find that he has made a slip of the tongue. Departments do not pay a credit, as he said; the Post Office takes the credit.
§ Mr. Gammans
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right; we do not get any money, but there is a credit in the commercial accounts. This change is a desirable thing in itself, for at present these services which we render to Government Departments do not have to be accounted for in their Estimates and, therefore, there is nothing other than a very high sense of public duty which calls any Govern- 1902 ment Department to be very careful about these things. I am sure my predecessors would agree with me on this—that if a Minister saw in his annual Estimates a sum of £3 million or £4 million or £5 million in charges to the Post Office, and he knew that had to come out of the total sum voted to him by the House, a good deal more attention would be given to these matters than is given at present.
But it will not make any direct difference to our financial position. The advantage will be in this, that if there is less use of Post Office facilities by Government Departments at a time when we are called upon, or compelled, to restrict the public use of telephones, in particular, there may be more facilities available to the public. I hope that at last I have succeeded in getting this point across. I know that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly made a very gallant attempt to do so, but it is extraordinary to see articles in the Press, as well as to read speeches made in the House, which clearly do not appreciate that elementary point.
I want to turn to the words of the Amendment. When I first read them on the Order Paper, I must confess that I did not think the right hon. Gentleman was quite serious. I thought that perhaps some of his hon. Friends might have been serious about it, but I thought he knew far too much about the Post Office and its organisation to lend his name at any rate to some parts of the Amendment. I notice that it starts by talking about…examining the organisation of the Post Office financial system with a view to providing for accounting on a commercial basis.We did not hear very much about reexamining the Post Office when the right hon. Gentleman moved the Amendment. In fact, I do not quite know what he meant by it. There was vague reference to the Bridgeman Committee. As I said the other day, I personally would not have the least objection to the Post Office being examined by the Bridgeman or any other type of committee.
I know that there are hon. Members who think the Post Office should be run as an ordinary nationalised industry. That may be a good idea or it may be a bad one. It would mean having no Postmaster-General, nor Assistant Postmaster-General, in this House. Certainly 1903 the House would lose a lot of the intimate control it has over the Post Office at the present time.
Any hon. Member can put down Parliamentary Questions to ask why the inkwells in the Post Office in Victoria Street are never full of ink—as though they are not—and I have to answer, but when it comes to asking about a nationalised industry, like the railways or electricity, we cannot come down to anything like that sort of investigation. It may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing, but I ask hon. Gentlemen who make pleas for the re-organisation of the Post Office to realise the lines upon which such a reorganisation might take place. It may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing, but it would certainly mean that the House would lose a good deal of the control it has today.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to be unfair. Some of us have been advocating this for some considerable time, but we have not suggested that the Post Office should be like an ordinary nationalised undertaking. We have always taken the view that there should still be full Parliamentary accountability, and equally we say that the Post Office should be examined by a committee similar to the Bridgeman Committee to this effect, that its liability to the State should be defined, it should be able to use its own revenue for the purpose of building up its reserves, and in all that way be on a commercial basis.
§ Mr. Gammans
Yes, I do not object to the definition the right hon. Gentleman gives; but I do not want to be involved today in an argument about the future status of the Post Office, for if it ought to be discussed I do not think it should be on a Bill which raises the poundage on postal orders merely by a halfpenny: it is a larger and much more important question. For historical reasons I am sure that everyone who has had anything to do with the Post Office would share my view that, because of its long and honoured history, I for one should be sorry to see its present status materially altered.
Then the Amendment goes on to the suggestion that these increases cannot be justified on commercial grounds. Then we had the full run of arguments I have 1904 heard so often. The right hon. Gentleman said, "The voice is the voice of the Post Office but the hand is the hand of the Treasury." Some hon. Gentlemen said I was the "stooge" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and there were compliments of that sort, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brightside (Mr. R. E. Winterbottom) went so far as to say that I was fleecing the public on behalf of the Chancellor. That all sounds very nice, but what, in fact, does it amount to?
Let me take the right hon. Gentleman's point. He objects, apparently, to the present Government helping the Chancellor to the tune of £8 million—that is, if we get it. If we are fleecing the public to the tune of £8 million this year, then what does the House say about the surplus of £12 million which the right hon. Gentleman paid over to the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, or—to go back a few years—about the £20 million which was paid in 1947 and 1948?
If a surplus of £8 million to be paid to the Chancellor is wrong this year, then how much more wrong was it to have £20 million handed over a few years ago? I do not seem to remember any protest coming from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on that occasion. Do not let us quibble about it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley, who spoke last, I think admitted the point. I do not want to misquote him, but I think he said that there ought to be a surplus to the Post Office. Well, in this current year the surplus of the Post Office is smaller than for 25 years, with the exception of two particular years.
Therefore, I do not quite see how we can reconcile this argument that I am a stooge who is to go on collecting money unwillingly for the Chancellor, on the one hand, with the right hon. Gentleman's collecting twice that much, with the acclaim of his party, on the other. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) suggested that when I was in opposition I was most belligerent but had now become a timid mouse who was giving the Chancellor a small piece of cheese. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways.
That is why I am very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who knows all about the Post Office finances, who knows of the £8 million surplus we have this 1905 year, and knows that it is a pretty small surplus, should try to pretend that there is something outrageous about this. I looked up a previous speech of his when he was the Postmaster-General. I really must read it. I know that it is a poor form of Parliamentary fun to read one another's speeches, but he made a so much better speech in suggesting this increase last year than I was able to make this year—so much more convincing, because he got away with it so much more easily. He said:I have reached the conclusion—very reluctantly"—I also said "very reluctantly"—that the time has come when the Post Office finances, faced with a steep rise in costs in practically all directions, must be fortified by an increase in several of our tariffs. The House may be surprised at this, in view of the considerable attention frequently given to the surplus exhibited by our commercial accounts, but there is, I fear, no escape from the conclusion that without this support the surplus for 1951–52 would fall to a very small figure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 207.]This year it has fallen below zero, and if these increases were justified last year, when there was still a commercial surplus, I find it very difficult to understand how the right hon. Gentleman this year, when we have an actual prospective deficit, can possibly object in the words he has used.
§ Mr. Hobson
Yes, but my right hon. Friend announced the increases himself, and not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that constitutes an entirely different set of circumstances. In the second place—and this is a point the hon. Gentleman may be coming to, and I do not want to anticipate his reply—what are the increases in the costs of issuing postal orders?
§ Mr. Gammans
I will deal with the last point first. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman himself who said he had always regarded Post Office revenue as a whole—with some surpluses here and some deficits there. There is an appalling deficit on the telegraphs, which is getting worse, as it is in every country in the world, and it has got to be carried by something; but we have a very nice surplus on inland correspondence of nearly £10 million, and a surplus on telephones—and, thank heaven, we have—and although I admit we are raising by these tariffs a larger sum than is 1906 necessary to wipe out that deficit, that is simply because we regard the Post Office revenue as a whole.
Let me now come to the last part of the Amendment, which says that the Bill…places an unfair burden on the poorer sections of the community.I think the right hon. Gentleman had some difficulty in putting that across. I think he said it with his tongue in his cheek. After all, 56 per cent. of all postal orders issued are issued for football pools. Have we reached the stage when the Revenue should subsidise people who invest in football pools? That is a fantastic suggestion. The value of the average pool postal order is 3s. 11d., not 2s. 6d. as the hon. Member for Bilston said, and 56 per cent. of all the postal orders are for football pools.
A very convincing case can be made by suggesting that in putting this poundage of ½d.—which is all we are talking about—on the value of the average postal order we are hitting the poorer sections of the population very hard. If we are talking about hitting the poorer sections of the population, what about the right hon. Gentleman's efforts last year. It was he who put up the call-box charge from 2d. to 3d., and who uses the call-boxes if it not the poorer sections of the population who cannot afford to have telephones of their own? It was he who put up the cost of telegrams from 1s. to 1s. 6d., and if it is not the poorer sections who have to use telegrams in an emergency, who is it?
I can imagine the sort of sob-stuff story the right hon. Gentleman would have told us if he had been attacking those charges last year. Think of it. We should have heard all about people on their death beds and their relations being summoned in the middle of the night by using either a call-box or a telegram. What a story we should have heard. We should have heard sad stories of people in adversity who had to send telegrams or to use the call-boxes. Then we should have heard all about the people who had telephones of their own being helped at the expense of those who had to use the call-boxes.
What a yarn it would have been. What tears he would have shed. There was not a word from him about all that today. Today we have heard about raising the 1907 poundage on postal orders by ½d. for people, most of whom will use those postal orders for football pools. If I may say so, I think the right hon. Gentleman could have found a much more convincing story than that.
I was surprised that the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) did not speak in this debate. I have no doubt there was a very good reason why he did not do so. I can quite understand his reticence, because I suggest that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly has not really faced up to the reason for these increases. The main reason for these increases, as well as the other increases, is that wages have gone up. What he and his hon. Friends will be doing tonight when they go into the Lobby against this Bill is objecting to those wage increases. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] But yes. It is no good hon. Members opposite lending themselves to a course of action and then objecting to the inevitable consequences of that action.
That is what is happening tonight. We have a wage increase of £33 million in two years out of a total increase of £50 million, and then the right hon. Gentleman comes here tonight and objects to the inevitable consequences arising out of it. By voting against this Bill, he and his hon. Friends are objecting to the wage increases themselves.
§ Mr. Gammans
But that is exactly what is happening. I was hoping that the hon. Member for Droylsden would
§ speak this afternoon and, if he objected to this Bill, say "I do not think these men ought to have had that money"; or, if he was not prepared to do that, allow this Bill to go through as the inevitable consequence of those wage increases.
§ I notice that there has been some reference to telephone charges. It is very significant that the Opposition did not pray against the increased telephone charges. I wish they had done so.
§ Mr. Hobson
The hon. Gentleman must be fair. It was not the fault of the Opposition that we were unable to pray against the increased telephone charges. The hon. Gentleman knows the reason full well.
§ Mr. Gammans
If it is the earlier charges to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, the Opposition had 40 days in which to pray against the telephone charge increases in the Budget. They did not do so; I do not blame them. They realised then that if they prayed against those telephone charges they would be praying against the wage increases which made those increased charges inevitable. I suggest that if the Opposition go into the Lobby now against this Bill, what they are doing is protesting against the increases in wages and salaries and pension commitments that made this Bill inevitable.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 278; Noes, 252.1911
|Division No. 181.]||AYES||[6.56 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Birch, Nigel||Cole, Norman|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bishop, F. P.||Colegate, W. A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Black, C. W.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Amery, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bossom, A. C||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bowen, E. R.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Braine, B. R.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W H||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Crouch, R. F.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bullard, D. G.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Burden, F. F. A.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Baxter, A. B.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A (Saffron Walden)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Carson, Hon. E.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Cary, Sir Robert||Donner, P. W.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Channon, H.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Drewe, G.|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Gosport)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Leather, E. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Erroll, F. J||Linstead, H. N.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fell, A.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lloyd, Rt Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Russell, R. S.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Fort, R.||Low, A. R. W.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Gage, C. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||McAdden, S. J.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D (Hillhead)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Mackeson, Brig. H R.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||McKibbin, A. J.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Godber, J. B.||MeKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Maclay, Hon. John||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Speir, R. M.|
|Gower, H. R,||MacLeod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Steward, W A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H||Manningham-Buller, Sir R E.||Storey, S.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Markham, Major S. F.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Marples, A. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Summers, G. S.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hay, John||Maudling, R.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L C||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Heath, Edward||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Teeling, W|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mellor, Sir John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Here[...]d)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Molson, A. H. E.||Thomas, P J. M. (Conway)|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Monckton, Rt. Hon, Sir Walter||Thompson Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn Peter (Monmouth)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Thorntan-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Tiney, John|
|Holland-Martin, C J||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Turner, H. F. L|
|Holt, A. F.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Turton, R. H.|
|Hope, Lord John||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hopkinson, Henry||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P||Nugent, G. R. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Nutting, Anthony||Vosper, D. F.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Odey, G. W.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'grh W.)||Partridge, E.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wellwood, W.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Perkins, W. R. D.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Williams, Rt Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Jennings, R.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon E.)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitman, I. J.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wills, G.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Trure)|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Profumo, J. D.||York, C.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Lambton, Viscount||Redmayne, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Mr. Butcher and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Adams, Richard||Bellenger, Rt Hon. F. J.||Bowden, H. W.|
|Albu, A. H.||Bence, C. R.||Bowles, F. G.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Benn, Wedgwood||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Benson, G.||Brockway, A. F.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Beswick, F.||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Bing, G. H. C.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Ayles, W. H||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blenkinsop, A.||Burke, W. A.|
|Baird, J.||Blyton, W. R.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Boardman, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)|
|Bartley, P.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A G.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rankin, John|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reeves, J.|
|Champion, A. J||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G A.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Janner, B.||Rhodes, H.|
|Clunie, J.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Richards, R.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Rodgers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Ross, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Royle, C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Daines, P.||Kenyon, C.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||King, Dr. H. M||Short, E. W|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Kinley, J.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Simmons, C J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Delargy, H. J||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lewis, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lindgren, G. S.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Logan, D. G.||Sorensen, R W.|
|Edelman, M.||MacColl, J. E.||Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McGhee, H. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McGovern, J.||Steele, T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McInnes, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||McLeavy, F.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Ewart, R.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Field, W. J||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Summerskill, Rt Hon E|
|Finch, H. J.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W (Huddersfield, E.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Follick, M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Foot, M. M.||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Forman, J. C.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Glanville, James||Messer, F.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mikardo, Ian||Timmons, J|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P.C.||Mitchison, G. R||Tomlinson, Rt Hon G|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Monslow, W.||Tomney, F|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moody, A. S.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Morley, R.||Viant, S P.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wallace, H. W|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, S.)||Watkins, T E|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mort, D. L.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Moyle, A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Mulley, F. W||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Hannan, W.||Murray, J. D||West, D. G.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Nally, W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E Flint)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Hastings, S.||Oliver, G. H.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Orbach, M.||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Oswald, T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M||Pargiter. G. A||Williams, Rt Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Parker, J.||Williams, W R. (Droylsden)|
|Holman, P.||Pearson, A||Williams, W T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Peart, T. F.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Hoy, J. H.||Poole, C. C.||Wyatt, W. L|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Popplewell, E.||Yates, V F|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hynd, A. (Accrington)||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Wilkins and Mr Wigg.|
|Bill read a Second time.|
|Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Redmayne.]|